Arnold Lakind was recently asked by a member of a New Brunswick Synagogue to provide pro bono services to an elderly Mexican immigrant, MS. MS could speak some English, he understood little in the English language and could neither read nor write English.
MS and his wife lived in a rented apartment in New Brunswick. In October 2018, he spend $185,000 to purchase a home in Monroe Township in an effort to relocate his family to a safer community. The home was in need of work and MS paid a contractor $35,000 to renovate it. The contractor absconded with the money and he could not be found.
In February 2019, MS’s brother was brutally murdered in Mexico. In the following years, MS traveled to Mexico to assist his brother’s wife with their farm. As a result of the time, MS devoted to help his sister-in-law and the COVID pandemic, MS’s work as a landscaper dried up. He struggled to pay his daily living expenses and could not pay the real estate taxes owed on the Monroe property.
The Township of Monroe declared the property dangerous and sold the tax lien to an investor. The investor filed a tax lien foreclosure action, obtained a final judgment, and became the owner of MS’s Monroe property. Unaware that the judgment had been entered, MS borrowed funds from relatives, renovated the property and finally visited the Monroe tax office in an effort to pay the taxes. He was told he was too late and the home was no longer his.
MS asked a neighbor, who was a member of a local Synagogue, for assistance. The neighbor contacted Arnold Lakind on his behalf.
Mr. Lakind filed a motion to reconsider the entry of the foreclosure judgment arguing, among other things, that service of complicated papers, written in English, on a Spanish-speaking property owner was a deprivation of due process. In addition, he argued that the loss of the money paid to the contractor for the planned renovation, coupled with the time MS devoted to his brother’s family, and the COVID pandemic made it impossible for MS to pay the real estate taxes owed on the Monroe home. As a result, as a matter of fairness, the final judgment, we argued, should be vacated. Upon receipt of the motion to vacate, the tax lien owner offered to resolve the matter only if MS would pay a $100,000 penalty. Unable to make that payment and believing the offer unfair, MS decided to proceed with the effort to vacate the judgment.
On July 22, 2022, a Middlesex County Superior Court Judge vacated the final judgment and ordered that title to the home be restored to MS upon payment of back taxes, which was a fraction of the amount demanded by the tax lien holder. The home has been renovated and MS plans to move his family from New Brunswick to Monroe shortly.
Arnold Lakind is a Founding Partner of Szaferman Lakind and is the head of the firms Litigation Department. To contact Arnold, please call (609) 275-0400 or email him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.